tv Race for the White House CNN March 27, 2016 5:00pm-6:01pm PDT
>> in the fall of 1986, the white house is mired in scandal. ronald reagan's administration is accused of secretly selling weapons to america's most dangerous enemy, iran. >> i have a few words here before i take your questions. >> with the profits diverted illegally to fund a right-wing guerilla group in nicaragua, the contras -- >> your credibility has been severely damaged. can you repair it? what does it mean for the rest of your presidency? >> well, i imagine i'm the only one around who wants to repair it and i didn't have anything to do with damaging it. >> bad news for reagan, but worse for his loyal deputy george bush. iran-contra could kill his own presidential plans. >> news of the widening investigation comes as vice president george bush is trying to put some distance between himself and the arms deal. >> i remember him kind of coming back into his office in the west wing of the white house as though the wind had been knocked out of him. he knew that this would become a very large and evolving story. that he would have a very hard time separating himself from
president reagan. and yet it really was not something of his making. >> in february, 1987, investigators revealed the secret arms trade was being run from inside the white house. >> a few months ago i told the american people i did not trade arms for hostages. my heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true. but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. as the tower board report -- >> reagan's address to the nation sticks a knife right through george bush's dreams. >> politically, he recognized could be devastating to his campaign. and i think that was probably one of the low moments in the four years i was with him. >> as the navy would say, this happened on my watch. let's start with the part that is the most controversial. >> like a lot of americans, i was appalled. iran-contra really started me thinking, what's going on here.
what are these people doing? and what is this doing to american democracy? >> there are reasons why it happened, but no excuses. >> that was really the first time that i started thinking about maybe running for the presidency. prior to that time, i had never given it a second thought. >> michael stanley dukakis is the son of first generation european immigrants and proud of it. >> his excellency, michael dukakis. >> midway through a successful third term as governor of massachusetts, dukakis sees himself as a knight clad in armor made from the american dream. >> we thought that he was in a good place to be running having served as governor for quite a few years. what he had done in massachusetts was something that would resonate across the country. >> if he were running for president, a haircut with george
the greek would mean this little barber shop would be filled with secret service agents. dukakis said it's not an easy decision. >> i'll never forget my older daughter saying to me, dad, very few people have this opportunity. you've got a responsibility to do this. >> thank you all very much. thank you. today, a son of greek immigrants named mike dukakis announces his candidacy for the presidency of the united states. >> anyone who has been within six counties of michael dukakis has heard the story of massachusetts, how a run down state with double-digit unemployment became one of the hottest economies in the country. >> dukakis' campaign will be run by his chief of staff, john sasso, and harvard law professor, susan estridge. >> in dukakis you had somebody who was tenacious, driven, and unbelievably hard working and
disciplined. all my friends from politics were coming together to support a very smart man running for president. great. so i went to boston and helped the guy set up the campaign. >> i was just a kid in college. >> then i just went to boston and barged in there and volunteered. governor dukakis had a rule that nobody could be hired unless he personally interviewed them. and i thought to myself, why are you talking to me, i am 21, i make photocopies, what are you doing? >> he said i'm going to run this campaign in a very ethical way and i want to make sure that everybody that comes to work for me understands that. and i was hooked. i knew i wanted to do this. >> dukakis sets out to win his party's nomination, there's
literally a short list of opponents. >> there were seven of us, some of the press rather uncharitably referred to us as the seven dwarves. >> of the seven, joe biden, a young senator from delaware, is one of the front-runners. >> i announce my candidacy for president of the united states of america. >> good, solid progressive democrat. and just an all-around good guy. and a fine united states senator. >> i tell you today that america is a nation at risk. >> so biden came to washington and as one of the most sympathetic young senators. and was widely viewed as a very decent man. >> a very decent man who now poses a threat to dukakis' presidential ambition. as the candidates prepare for their first campaign battle, the iowa caucus, biden finds himself under the microscope like a
pinned bug. >> i was the chief political writer for "the des moines register," the largest newspaper in iowa. a very respected political writer called me and said i got something i want to show you off the record. so we went out to his car and he got in the trunk and handed me a copy of this videotape. said just take a look at that. well, i went back to my office. popped it into the cart. >> why is it that joe biden -- >> oh, wow. it was the kind of story that sucks all the oxygen out of the room. the chief political reporter of iowa's leading newspaper has i can get over 60 sheets of drywall into my mercedes-benz metris.
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,all day and all night. hasn't your nose been through enough already? try new rhinocort® allergy spray. muddle no more® the chief political reporter of iowa's leading newspaper has been given a videotape featuring joe biden. it's not a sex tape. it's worse than that. >> you know, here is joe biden giving a speech. >> why is it that joe biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? >> it's almost word for word what british labor party leader neil kinnock said. >> a way of life, the first kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university. >> here's a clip of kinnock and a clip of biden saying the same thing.
>> was it because they were weak? those people who could work eight hours underground and then play football. >> my ancestors who worked in the coal mines in northeast pennsylvania came up after 12 hours and play football for four hours? >> biden is stealing kinnock's words without attributing it. i wrote my story, and there were more and more examples of plagiarism, reporters were digging into his past. it was a sign of death by 1,000 cuts. >> i've concluded that i will stop being a candidate for president of the united states. >> but who was behind the leaked tape? >> michael dukakis is assessing the damage to his campaign following the disclosure that two of his top aides sabotaged the campaign of rival joseph biden. >> none other than dukakis' supposedly squeaky clean campaign manager john sasso. >> i went to john's office and
he was saying that dukakis was going to fire him tomorrow. i was like, what? i knocked on the governor's door and i said this is crazy. what they did wasn't so wrong. you're losing the heart and soul of your campaign. he said i've heard all the arguments, no. >> i spoke to joe biden a few minutes ago on the telephone, and i want to publicly apologize to him for the involvement of my campaign. >> i just thought it was very important that if i was going to win that nomination, i do so in a way that had democrats feeling good about my candidacy and good about my nomination. >> i am here today to announce my candidacy for president of the united states. >> while dukakis is dismantling his team, bush is assembling a
gang of political hard men. republican heavyweight james baker. veteran strategist roger ailes. and his campaign manager, political bruiser, lee atwater. >> lee was south carolina, lee was a rabble-rousing visceral, loud, street-level politician. >> bush is on the stump, dogged by questions about his role in the iran-contra scandal. he can run for president. but he can't hide. >> it was by no means a certainty that george bush was going to be the nominee. >> please go to the caucuses and vote. let me get out of the way so you can make a buck here. >> he had the residual and the cancerous debilitating effect of the iran-contra affair. >> what we decided to do is i would become the most
knowledgeable person possible about his involvement, and i would be the only person to talk about it. the campaign wouldn't talk about it, only i would talk about it. and that's the way we operated. >> just weeks before the iowa caucus, bush gets a phone call from cbs news anchor dan rather. >> george bush announced to us he agreed to do this interview. we begin to get calls that rather's operation has shut down everything except his preparation for the interview with george bush and that all the focus is on iran-contra, all of it. >> george bush and craig fuller have been traveling out of town and now make their way back to washington. >> we're going to do the interview from the vice president's office in the u.s. capitol. with the exception of george bush, the rest of us were going into this with a great deal of trepidation. and i remember saying, you know, this is really unfair of rather.
it's like judging his career on the time he walked off the set. dan rather had walked off of the news set, in anger, like a couple of months earlier. but george bush said, you guys, you know, he looks at us like, you guys, you don't understand, this is going to be more thoughtful kind of a discussion. >> mr. vice president, thank you for being with us tonight. >> he's listen in an earpiece to rather in new york. i'm listening to a telephone hook-up to the interview in another room. and as the program begins, the vice president's hearing this assault, if you will, solely on iran-contra. >> one-third of the republicans and one-fourth of the people who say that they rather like you believe you're hiding something. if you are -- >> i am hiding something. >> here's a chance to get it out. >> you know what i'm hiding?
what i call the president, that's the only thing. >> i thought it was going to be difficult. this is even worse than difficult. >> you said if you had known this was an arms for hostages swap, you would have opposed it. >> as i'm sitting there, i hear -- >> it's not fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on iran. how would you like it if i judged your career by the seven minutes when you walked off the set in new york? would you like that? >> mr. vice president -- >> i respect for you but i don't have respect for what you're doing here tonight. >> i thought, oh, my god. it was, it was just delivered so perfectly and so appropriately. >> i'd be happy to -- >> i want to judged on the whole record. and you're not giving me an opportunity. >> i'm trying to set the record straight. >> you invited me to come here. >> thank you very much for being with us, mr. vice president. we'll be back with more news in a moment. >> when he came back out, he was not happy. he was not really realizing how well he had done. and i'm saying, sir, you just knocked it out of the park. are you kidding?
this is one of the greatest interviews that i've ever seen. >> bush arrives to campaign in iowa, happy as a clam. >> we thought we were probably going to win the iowa caucus. >> we'd just gotten the returns in from iowa, and i congratulate both mr. dole and senator dole and pat robertson. >> bush is hammered into third place behind television preacher pat robertson and senate majority leader bob dole. >> with iowa in his pocket and bush off-balance, dole thinks he stands a chance of upsetting the vice president in new hampshire. >> we were morose, we were shaken, we were rattled. lee thought this could break us. that there could be no recovery from this. >> eight days to go before the most important of the nomination
polls, the new hampshire primary. >> having lost iowa, if bush doesn't win new hampshire, he's not going to win the nomination. he's dead. with extraordinary offers on the stylish, all-new rx... and the dynamic nx. ♪ this is the pursuit of perfection. (patrick 2) pretty great.ke to be the boss of you? (patrick 1) how about a 10% raise? s
to turn bush from a pumpkin into a golden coach. >> my message to the vice president and atwater was you have to understand that in new hampshire, a campaign is what we call see me, touch me, feel me. you have to go and look the voters in the eye. >> hey, how are you? what are you having? >> we had three breakfasts a day in three fast food places. he may not eat everything on his plate, but he's talking to everybody in the diner. >> you live right in -- just happen to be coming by. >> i live here. >> all: we're going to win. we're going to win. >> bush's campaign is gaining momentum. but senator bob dole is still in the lead. time to cry havoc and unleash atwater. >> all: we want george. >> lee was driven, but not a genius. a lot of his politics was instinctive.
>> a little louder! bush, george bush, a little louder! let's go. >> tacks on the road was one of lee atwater's sayings, how to diminish the other side. what can we do to three some tacks in the road in the way of the dole bus and cause some confusion. >> there were a number of positions that we found in which bob dole appeared to be on both sides of an issue. i said, well, maybe we refer to him as senator straddle. >> george bush and bob dole on leadership. >> atwater falls on the line like a ravenous wolf. the team make an attack ad accusing dole of sitting on the fence over tacks. >> we had a meeting with myself, lee atwater, the vice president, mrs. bush. bush was not totally convinced
of the merits of the straddle ad. bush was a gentleman. he didn't call someone names. he thought very well of senator dole. i think lee and others ganged up on bush. >> the vice president sort of looked over at barbara and saw she wasn't objecting anymore and he agreed to have the ad run. >> bush says he won't raise taxes, period. dole straddles. he's been on both sides. that's why he's becoming known as senator straddle. george bush, presidential leadership. >> reports of my death were greatly exaggerated. >> george bush takes new hampshire with close to a ten-point lead. dole just got atwatered. >> i think that bush knew that lee gave him something that he
didn't have on his own. >> also taking new hampshire is the new democratic front-runner, governor michael dukakis. >> massachusetts governor michael dukakis had said he was going for the gold. and new hampshire democrats went for him in a big way. >> he came out of there with a huge head of steam, and it really started to look like we were catching fire. >> a long race, a long race. >> dukakis had sort of burst onto the scene. >> i'm the strongest candidate against bush. i think i can take the fight to him. >> he had gone from nowhere to somewhere in a hurry, and that was worrying.
>> with your help, the son of greek immigrants can seek and win the presidency of the united states. thank you all very much. >> every field office that i entered had pounds and pounds of greek food, spanakopita, moussaka. if i hadn't been 21 years old, i would have gained 40 pounds in that campaign, for sure. >> tonight, the race to the finish line begins. with the memory in my heart of the young man who arrived at ellis island. and how i wish he was here tonight. he would be very proud of his son. >> i was very emotional. when he talked about his father and how, how proud he would have been of him. >> and it would have been great to have him there so -- >> i accept your nomination for
the presidency of the united states. >> dukakis chooses senator lloyd bentsen, the workers' friend as his running mate. >> that night, my dad's path to the presidency was as clear as it had ever been. >> this was going to be a competitive race, no question about it. but it was imminently winnable. >> governor dukakis leading vice president bush, 50% to 40%. two weeks ago this is the way it looked. >> mr. vice president -- >> lee atwater said we know he's got a big lead, but get his negatives up to about 48% and then we'll see how he's doing. >> he is for raising taxes, big spending, soft on crime. >> we're going to strip the bark off the little bastard. ten points ahead, michael
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dukakis seems untouchable. >> news that's stupid, untrue, terrible rumor floating around that dukakis had suffered a serious depression after he lost his first re-election campaign for governor and had been treated by a psychiatrist. >> vetoed the defense authorization bill in the oval office. >> and i think we tamped it down for at least a week or so. >> do you feel that michael dukakis had made his medical record public? >> and then ronald reagan, president, in a news conference was asked about something about
dukakis' policies or whatever. >> do you think that american people deserve to know whether he's fit to govern by having his medical records made public? >> look, i'm not going to pick on an invalid. >> mr. president, mr. president! >> every line i have on my desk is ringing. everybody's phone is ringing. >> hello. >> well, i was pretty upset. i mean, an incumbent president is calling the democratic nominee an invalid. what did he mean by that? >> the president elevated this crazy rumor to something that made some people believe him. >> i was very, very angry. >> i'll be happy to provide the people of this country with a full report on my mental and physical condition from my position of 17 years, and i think that's appropriate, i think the american people have a right to know -- >> we quickly learned that the same trick had been used by lee atwater, the then campaign manager in a race in south carolina. >> no, we didn't do that. everybody knows that that would have crossed a line and back-fired on whoever was dispensing that information. >> but the target is hit.
>> anything that puts you at risk, it makes you seem like a riskier choice for the voter, is going to hurt you back. we went down seven points that night. >> my choice for the vice presidency is senator dan quayle of indiana. you can tell george bush one thing, go get 'em. >> for all quayle's boasting, bush continues to drown in the polls. >> lee atwater brings in ad man sig rogich.
>> we just collaborated and came up with good scripts and good ideas. and then they would be tested. >> from unknown governor to candidate for president, how much do we really know about michael dukakis? out of touch with our values and problems. >> i thought we captured the differences between us and michael dukakis. >> congress has increased federal spending at an alarming rate, michael dukakis has increased state spending in massachusetts twice as fast. >> the natural throw-away line is it's negative campaigning but it's comparative campaigning, i mean, how are you going to get a contrast between two different philosophies and two different ways of running government if you don't compare? >> michael dukakis promised not to raise taxes, but as governor he imposed the largest tax increase in massachusetts history. he promised jobs, but since 1984
massachusetts lost 90,000 blue collar jobs. and now he wants to do for america what he's done for massachusetts. america can't afford that risk. >> people will sit there until they're blue in the face saying they hate negative ads, but they're the only ones they remember. >> but dukakis loves the moral high ground so much, he won't let estridge play dirty. >> and we had various ones made. we had one in the can with the helicopter flying over bush's house in kennebunkport. the ocean and the golf courses and, you know, is this where you live? >> i've heard all the arguments. >> dukakis said i never want to see that ad ever go out on the air. >> i wasn't listening. i made a decision we're not going to respond. >> it was perfectly clear.
that they were playing hardball and we were playing softball and you can't win hardball with softball. >> i was doing some research on george bush, and wouldn't you know it, we found a piece of footage. >> george bush had been a pilot in world war ii, and he had been shot down in the pacific. >> a submarine emerged and saved him. somebody on the submarine had a camera and filmed it. we used it everywhere, you know, as much as we could. >> i, george herbert walker bush. >> i, george herbert walker bush. >> do solemnly swear. >> perhaps it began the day in 1944 when he earned the distinguished flying cross for bravery under fire. >> i saw that footage and i was
just sick because it was, it was phenomenal. i mean the guy was a war hero. that is hard in the television age to overcome. >> atwater takes bush to flag factories. he puts him in f-16s. and the democrats? they tanked. literally. >> i was told to go to sterling heights, michigan, and report to the general dynamics tank factory and proving ground up there, he's going to take a ride in a tank. we had an enormous world historic campaign catastrophe. two months to go until the as this y or this or this. not guilty.
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two months to go until the election and presidentia two months to go until the election and presidential nominee michael dukakis hopes his visit to a tank factory will have the whole nation singing "hail to the chief." >> it is a real personal privilege to introduce mike dukakis of massachusetts. >> to show he's a real man, dukakis is going to sit in a tank. what could possibly go wrong?
>> there are a site advance person, there's press people and motorcade, and my job was to deal with the sites. they said, you should really get a sense of what this is like. would you like to go for a ride yourself, however, when i looked at myself in a mirror, and i realized i have a bit of a nose the way dukakis does, i thought i will look terrible in the helmet and so will he. and i got incredibly nervous about putting mike dukakis in this tank. so i called the boss at headquarters and told him he's going to look terrible if he wears this helmet, and they said, well, bush was just sitting in an f-16, now we're going to sit in a tank, this is our thing, just do it. >> dukakis prepares to flex his military muscles before the national press. >> and he was excited to ride in the tank because he's a red-blooded american male, he wanted to ride in this tank too.
so you're like, all right, terrific, let's go. >> i didn't give it a second thought. i was going to get into the thing and he told me to put the helmet on, i did so. tank emerges.rs open and the and i will never forget what happened, we have this giant riser full of press, at least 90 people. and they just burst out laughing. i mean, to a person they're just guffawing. and i think, oh, my god. we are in so much trouble. >> you're looking at a guy and you say to yourself, jesus christ, that guy doesn't belong in a tank, which is to say, that
guy doesn't belong running the national security of our country. >> dukakis standing in the hatch of an abrams tank as it raced across the open field. >> we gather in lee's office and there was much howling, much laughter, much celebration. >> he looked ridiculous, and i wrote a commercial that night. >> michael dukakis has opposed virtually every defense system we developed. he opposed anti-satellite weapons. >> he added grinding gears, so those are gears grinding the tank, you know. >> dukakis opposed the stealth bomber. >> it goes, eeh, eeh. >> and now he wants to be our commander-in-chief. >> then we froze-framed it and said america can't afford that risk.
>> dukakis had a tremendous knowledge and record on education. on health care. on job creation. but that wasn't what the election turned out to be about. they defined it as who's the risk here? >> by late september, dukakis' lead is like mist in the sun. can things get any worse for him? of course, they can. >> bush and dukakis on crime. bush supports the death penalty for first-degree murderers. dukakis not only opposes the death penalty, he allowed first-degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison. one was willie horton who murdered a boy in a robbery, stabbing him 19 times. despite a life sentence, horton received ten weekend passes from prison. horton fled, kidnapped a young couple, stabbing the man and repeatedly raping his girlfriend. weekend prison passes, dukakis on crime. >> the willie horton ad comes not from the official republican campaign, but from pro bush activists.
>> willie horton was a black american, and i think one of the reasons the campaign did not want to associate itself directly with the ad is that they felt that people might interpret it as being a racist ad. >> weekend prison passes, dukakis on crime. >> but lee atwater smells fresh blood. >> lee knew that it was powerful. lee knew that it fit a liberal stereotype that would make a larger point about dukakis. >> atwater wants to put willie horton front of stage, but he knows he's playing with fire. >> lee also knew that it could be radioactive with bush. that if it weren't handled right, bush wouldn't use it. bush would declare it off-limits. >> atwater and ailes take a different tack. casting a shadow over dukakis'
prison weekend furlough program by making a spector of willie horton. >> we felt that the furlough policy in massachusetts was tooling in. and so did we push it? yes, we did. >> as governor michael dukakis vetoed mandatory sentences for drug dealers -- >> we went to a prison site in utah, we created and built a set, the revolving prison door? >> his revolving door prison policy gave weekend furloughs to first-degree murderers not eligible for parole and many are still at large. now michael dukakis says he wants to do for america what he's done for massachusetts. >> the revolving door ad accomplished what lee atwater said was his goal, which was to make willie horton into dukakis' running mate. >> we like mike. we like mike. >> the dukakis team arrive in california for the final debate. willie horton looms over the
agenda like the grim reaper. >> this is our last chance in front of a national audience of that size. what if he gets the willie horton question? what is he going to say? if you would all please take your seats, it would -- ljs 6r ...and that's what they give me at national car rental. i can choose any car in the aisle i want- without having to ask anyone. who better to be the boss of you... (patrick 1)than me. i mean, you...us. (vo) go national. go like a pro. the internet gotusy not rocket mortgage.bathroom,
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your seats, it would -- >> with just three weeks until voting day, the candidates prepare for a face-to-face battle. top of the agenda, crime. >> it's what we had spent most of our debate prep doing was getting ready for the willie horton question. there was going to be a question coming, whose side are you on? the criminals or the victims? >> ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the debate commission, we welcome you. >> estrich believes the answer is in michael dukakis' own family history. both his father and brother have been victims of violent crime. >> this is what the answer has to be, however they frame the question. i know what it's like to be the victim of crime. i found my brother who was killed on the side of the road, left to die by a hit-and-run driver. my father in his 70s in his medical office, they came in,
they tied him up, robbed him, took the medicines, a 75-year-old man. so, believe me, i know what it's like to feel that pain. great answer, huh? >> vice president george bush, the republican nominee. >> you know, the lighting looks good, the vice president walks on stage very powerfully and strong, he looks presidential. [ applause ] >> there are no restrictions on the questions that my colleagues and i can ask this evening -- >> i was watching in the senior staff room that i had set up in the basketball arena for ucla. >> the candidates have no prior knowledge of our questions. >> susan estrich is there. >> the first question comes in
for governor dukakis. >> the first question comes in. >> governor, if kitty dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer? >> oh. here it is, it's a layup. it's so easy for dukakis to react with genuine emotion and anger and righteous indignation at the idea that somebody would murder his wife. >> i know what it's like. that was where the answer had to go. >> no, i don't, bernard. and i think you know that i have opposed the death penalty all my life. i don't see any evidence that it's a deterrent. i think there are better and effective ways to deal with
crime. we've done so in my own state and that's why -- >> and i thought, dead. >> when he answered the way he did, which was clinically and analytically, we just -- it just -- all the air went out of the room. >> did we just lose the election? >> we have the biggest drop -- >> that was a perfect answer. >> there was jumping, there was fist pumping. we knew that it was going bush's way in a dramatic fashion. >> people were looking for something a lot more emotional than what i gave them. >> i would like to thank all of you for joining us this evening. >> an ecstatic lee atwater meets the press. >> dukakis was so squeamish tonight about being a liberal. i mean, i think that was the most interesting thing, he stayed on the defensive all
evening long. >> i saw him coming off the stage, and he said, i'm sorry. i blew it. i'm sorry. i said, we're all just doing the best we can. and, you know, we just cratered in the polls. >> three weeks later, george h.w. bush thunders home with almost 80% of the electoral college votes. >> the people have spoken. and with -- [ cheers and applause ] >> there's no question that the attacks hurt and my failure to anticipate them and be ready for them from the beginning was a huge mistake on my part. >> i, george herbert walker bush, do solemnly swear that i will faithfully execute the office of the president of the
united states. >> my father went back to work the next morning. he walked to the subway, went back to the statehouse to go do his job. and that was unsurprising to most of us. >> congratulations. >> thank you. ♪ >> lee atwater used to say -- and he was right about this -- that there's a little boat and on this little boat are the people the american people can imagine being president. they are the kind of people who have the stature or experience. george bush is in the boat. dukakis never made it in.